Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Language Landscape

English wi a Scottish accent. That's how I would define my way of speaking. It's not how I would have wished it: my mother was a native gaelic speaker and my father's family were all from Auchinleck, broad scots speakers. They felt, definitely my mother felt, that English was the way forward. So I didn't inherit either of the languages of Scotland. It's a real regret.  I would love my language to be definitively and singularly Scottish, but it isnt.

Galloway's seen some tongues. Place names range from Gaelic to Norse, from Welsh to Latin. Welsh place names were still being originated in the 10th century, showing that Brythonic languages were still vibrant in Scotland then. The weans at school were always fascinated to know Criffel is norse, Dumfries is gaelic, Caerlaverock is welsh.

Criffel:Crow Mountain in Norse
Galloway was the last mainland part of Scotland to surrender gaelic. Margaret McMurray (died 1760) is one of the last speakers we know of by name, although its possible that Alexander Murray the linguist, may have learnt it from his aged father who was a local upland shepherd.
However, a lot of us are
 near enough stuck with English wi a Scottish accent now. In Dumfries last night we were discussing whether swearing is most effective in a Scottish accent, and then whether jokes are. Certainly there are some good jokes to be had out of the way we speak. This is less of a joke and more of a true story, though. A woman was wheeling her newly born son through the high st in Sanquhar when an old lady came up, keeked in at the child and crooned "Oh whit a bonny babbie, whit dye ca him?" "Nathan" the woman answered. "Nathan?" said the other aghast, "ye'll need tae ca him somethin!"

Phrase of the week, overheard in the Farmers Arms Thornhill last night.  "Aye if ye fly wi the craws ye get shot wi the craws".

Gap in the blog now, for ten days. See you soon.

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